Wednesday, 22 October 2008


If we were to walk in the woods and a spring appeared just when we became thirsty, we would call it a miracle. And if on a second walk, if we became thirsty at just that point again, and again the spring appeared, we would remark on the coincidence. But if that spring were there always, we would take it for granted and cease to notice it. Yet is that not more miraculous still?-

Baal Shem Tov

How often we go about looking for miracles, when they are right in front of us.

It was one of the lessions both Mark and I had to learn during this growing time.

I often spoke of this being a dark time in our lives.

But that is when growth takes place. Babies grow in the darkness of the womb. Fruit trees grow during the winter, the winds banging againt the trees cause the sap to thicken and the fruit is larger and sweeter.

And that is what happen began to happen in our beings, our lives and in our relationship.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Fear of My Heart

The Fear in My Heart
People tell me all the time that I am a strong woman. But the fear of rejection ran deep. I loved Mark and knew he loved me, but fear ruled my heart. I would however, learn one December evening, just before our families met that Mark too had that same fear.
It seem that there was another woman, one he loved. In 1998, Mark had a car accident that not only almost took his left leg, but his life. It was while h was in hosptial, that he learned why she hadn't come to see him or atleast call. She was seeing someone else. And when he needed her most, she wasn't there. And Mark had guraded his heart ever since.
I told him I was paying for someone else's sins. I wasn't the one who left. I have been here all of the time. I have been here during his deployment to Iraq and now as he battles Cancer. My name isn't....
I remember one evening we had a fight and I was about to leave when he said: "what makes you think I would let you just walk out that door."
"Then give me a reason to stay!"
I added the video above because that is how I felt the whole time. How I long to say I Love You. But the fear of rejection was just too strong.
So I had to let my actions speak for me.

Purity Ring and Remaining Tidy

Purity Ring and Remaining Tidy
purity ring
Purity Rings. Given to teen girls around their 14-to 16 birthdays. A reminder that their bodies are precious and holy, not to be given away lightly and just to anyone for the asking.

A Pastor I know gave plain gold bands to his sons as well. This summer, his eldest daughter and son were married, each having waited until they were wed.
There are even Purity Balls. Where parnets give their daughters (and some cases, sons) rings to remind them of the fact their body is precious and not to be treated like a plaything.
Yes, the media tends to tell us the stories of those who did not keep the vow.
But you don't hear the stories of those who do wait for the One G-d has for them.
I am a firm believer in the Torah; sex is for the man and woman who has stood before G-d and Man, entering into the Holy Covnenat of marriage. Yes, I am aware that this is an old fashion notion, but the 'new morality' is still the 'old immorality' that G-d condenms.
After my divorce and I had returned to G-d, I vowed to remain pure until G-d send me the husband of His choicing. I also had a son who watching me closely. And I was mindful that this little person was what I both say and do. My son didn't see me with "boyfriends" men coming in and out of my bedroom. In order to show how holy the Marriage bed is, I had to treat sex and marriage as holy. We as parnets are our children's first teachers.
And that includes family issuses.
About this time I heard of the Purity Ring. I even knew many young women who's parnets gave them one on their 16th birthday. One of them was my Matron of Honour and her now husband.
The Purity Ring is the result of a vow one has made to remain a virgin until marriage.
In 1999, I dreamt of a beautiful, tall ice-blue poodle, being held on a lead by the L-rd Himself. The love that proved out of His eyes for this do. I awoke, realizing I was the poodle.
But Blue?
I told a friend about the dream and he laughed. He told that his mother owned a Standard size Ice Blue Poodle. Jerry said: "Do you know how rare those Poodles are? G-d is telling you how precious you are to Him."
A few days later, while at the mall, I passed by a Jewel Cart. And there it was! An ice-blue poodle ring!
The lady told me that this ring has sat on the tray for weeks. I was the only person who showed any interest in the ring, so she sold it to me for half price!
This became my Purity Ring. I would wear this ring as a reminder to remain tidy until if and when I married. Then and only then would I remove the Poodle Ring for an engagement ring.
To many this sounds strange, unrealistic. But when I chose to become a believer and follower of the Messiah, that meant obeying ALL of His Commandments. And sex outside the Convenat of marriage is a sin. Not my idea, G-d's.
And while I cannot speak for anyone else, this is the path I chose to walk.
Yes, it was hard; after all sex does feel good. But until G-d brought me my spouse, I forcus on my relationship to G-d, growing as a person and took a lot of showers.
But oh how wonderful G-d is! For during our courtship, I would learn Mark made the same vow, to wait for G-d's choice of a wife.
Ain't G-d good!
Sadly, I no longer have that ring. After Mark gave me my engagement ring, I lost it somewhere in my old townhouse and never found it.
Even after all these years, I still hope that Poodle ring will show up. I would love to give it to a daughter, if G-d blesses us with one.

Shavuot Celebrating the Marriage between God and the Jewish People,

From 7th, June 2008
G-d is a Romanctic. Love and Marriage is His idea.

Mark and I love this Holy Day. Part of the customs is the enjoying of dairy products.
Mark and I share a slice of New York Cheese Cake and a glass of wine. Our hope one day is when we have our own home, we shall raise our Huppah as part of our Shavuot celebration.
Shavuot is 9th June. I hope that in Iraq, there is some Cheese Cake for Mark to enjoy the day with. Me? I know Mark would wish me to have a slice of New York Cheese Cake and think of him.

The Hair Cutting Party

This was a hoot!
Several year ago our buddy, Sarah's mum had and survived breast cancer. Kathy and Chuck were one of the leaders of the single's group Mark and I had been part of (at different times) And on one New Year's Eve, the family made shaving Kathy's hair a party.
So, remembering that, I ran with it. We ordered Cokes and Pizza and invited several people over. Sadly Paul and Sarah were out of town, so they couldn't make it.

So it was Mark's parnets, his sister and her two girls.
And we had a blast.
Mark had come up with a bright I idea for pictures...
We got a rope and I ran about the kitchen, chasing Mark with the rope...I would lasso him....drag him to a waiting chair, tie him up and and then with a glee in my eyes go for the hair!
But we let Dad had the first shave. Mum next, I did and one of his nieces. His sister couldn't do it and we didn't push.
After it was over, and Mark went to see what he looked like with a clean head, I said to Dad; "Well, he took that well..." Right clue and there was no way he could have heard me, we heard "AHHH MY HAIR!!!!"
Before he said good night, Mark took me in his arms and kissed my forehead, thanking me once again how to laugh and not to take Cancer so seriously.
I reminded him, we always have fun together.
A New Year
One of the sad things that happen Christmas Day was that one of our niece's wanted a Bunny.
Sadly the Bunny died the night before and thankfully Mark and I weren't around for the scence that followed.
But because of my mum's alleries, (the Bunny fur) we had to find a drugstore that would be open and get medication for mummie.
New Year's End, Paul and Sarah invited us to come and pray the New Year in at their house with friends.
It was a wnderful time. Much of it was praying for Mark's healing. But my slience prayer; that our relationship would result in marriage. Or that G-d would just allow me to move on with my life. I loved Mark with all my heart and made a promise to take care of him during his cancer treatment. But when it is all over; what then? I needed to know where I stood.
A few days later, went to get a new Bunny for Isabel. The store glady replaced the dead Bunny. While there, Mark found this cute little white Polar Bear named Budhha. Press his tummy and he has this deep belly laugh This little guy gave me a giggle.
Now the story; part of the side affects to Chemo can be the removed of the wanting to eat. Or one comes down with a bad case of the munchies.

Mark had the munchie and deveopled alittle tummy. He was getting upset because of the weigh gain, but I reminded him that means his treatment is going well. I would rub his tummy and call it "Budhha!" So his tummy became little Budhha and it also helps the injection of his medication easier.
So, that is why the Polar Bear has so much meaning and a special gift from Mark.
There was also a showdown with Mark's roommates. Since Mark and I were not married and while they liked me alot, by Islamic law , I shouldn't be over so much, even though I am the one taking care of Mark.
That matter had to be worked out and in the end, because I was taking care of Mark kept visiting.
My care of Mark was a few nights of sleeping on the sofa when Mark was very sick and could not be alone. Teaching him how to eat better so to help his body heal and of course the injections. We had decided to keep the medication in my fridge.
Becauase his white blood count was low, we had to go over his diet. I washed all raw fruit and veggies with a vinger-water wash. This removes all bugs and other yucky stuff. Lots of salmon and beef to rebuild his red blood cells. Peppermint tea and candy for his tummy. He also had to wear a mask for that he would not catch cold.

One day we had to go to the bank and he was wearing his surgeral mask. I had to quickly explain it was for medical reasons.
Dr. Hopkins was so pleased with the care Mark was recieving, he wanted me to come and apply with the Navel Hosptial to work with his department.
It was this time Mark and I began to talk about marriage. His sister thought it was the idea of a big wedding that might be scaring him off and if I was willing to settle for a small wedding, Mark would be ok. That was fine with me.
Well, that wasn't it. Mark said if we were going to get married, we were going to have a celebration.

OMG; GroomZilla!
No, it wasn't the size. Mark just had cold feet.
I began to pray: G-d this isn't right! This isn't fair! Mark loves me and I love Mark! But I can't stand anymore of this! Either he marrys me or I am out of here! I know he is scared, but as G-d's
I felt G-d speak to my heart: that Mark and I would indeed be married; H was working on Mark. Just Trust Him.
I chose to trust Him.

The Next Day

Mummie had told me the evening before, that she didn't wish to go Mark's Parents for Christmas Dinner.
But the next day, she changed her mind, so Mark and I to drive from Norfolk to Virginia Beach (a 45 minute drive) and pick her up before we went to his parents, who live in Porthmouth.
Again, everyone waited for Mark to say something about the nature of our relationship.
He didn't.
At this point we were fighting more.

I was feeling used; all I was is his nurse and once he was finish with treatment, bye-bye Laini.
But Mark had a fight on his hands. Not just the cancer, but the army itself to get his benefits. Mark had to prove that he became sick while in Iraq. This way, he could get his health benefits and his salary. Mark had made it clear he wanted to make sure he would be able to take care of me. At the moment, he didn't have a income and didn't think it fair to ask me to marry him and have nothing to offer me.

Now I can look back and understand and appreciate his feelings.
Later in the evening, Mark told me he would be leaving to spend a few days with his family at his older sister's. I could only hope that he would use that time to not only rest, but to really consider what and who wanted in his life.

I showed his mum how to give Mark his injections.

A few days later, Mark called unexpectly to let me know he was back in town. I was surprised: expected him to be gone at least a week.
Mark told me he had to give himself the injections and was very happy to have me do them from now on.
As Mark took off his cap, some of his hair came falling down like autumn leaves down. I was looking up at patches of hair.

The affects of Chemo. He told me he awoke to find hair on his pillow.
I couldn't hold back the tears. This was MY moment of truth; the man I loved has Cancer and I could lose him.
Mark took me in his arms and allowed me cry.

He said it's ok. He had cried too.
Later, we made plans to have a hair shaving party later in the week. It was a reminder to Mark that he still had control of this disease and he must not allow it to run his life.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

That Evening

Hair freshly washed and braided, showered and dressed in the lovely red dress my mum brought me years ago, I stepped out into the living room, surrrounded by Mark's family.
It was clear that my mum was not comfort with Mark's family. This is not a quiet brunch of folks and this is not something we are use to. I come from a small family and not givven to being loud. I was thankful Mark's mum was willing to speak to mummie
The tension was clearly in the air. This was more than Mark and Laini wishing for the families to meet. There was a feel of "is there an annoucement coming?"
And the only one unaware of the tension was Mark.
So, for the first time, we shared Shabbath with our family.

First, Mark shared the evening blessing.

Then, I explained what I was about to do, then lit the candles and said the blessings for the lights and a special blessing since this was a special time ( Mark said the blessing over the Challah (which everyone loved) and then supper.
Mummie asked if I made collard greens. Well, Mark's dad sat straight, "collards?"
It seem that my mum isn't the only one who loves collards.
It was a nice evening, and no there was no annoucement of an engagment.
Mark went to lay down, leaving me to entian for the rest of the evening. My buddie David got Mummie home and it was clear she was not impress with Mark's family. This, I did not expect.
Later, after everyone went home and Mark got up to help me clean up, he thanked me for all that I done.
Frankly, I too was hoping for more.

A Reel Christmas

As I said in an earlier entry, the doctor found large growths in my mum's stomach in October. The same time Mark started his series of test.
The news about my mum wasn't good. The doctors were concern about the growths in my mum's tummy.
I had told Mark about how lousy my mum's Thankgsgiving was and how I wanted to give her an old fashion Christmas.
Mark not only loved the idea, but wanted to make it a family affair, bringing both family together. This way we could bless both our families.
So I call my mum back and told her our plans. She loved it. I told her we were planning a 'real Christmas.
Mark asked me did I hear what I just said.
No, I didn't
"A Real Christmas." I are staring at Mark when it dawned on me; A Reel Christmas.
I know, I know; I growl too.

I knew Mark wanted to do this dinner for our families. But I was also concern about Mark's health. It hadn't as yet occur to Mark (even after the first bout of major pain) that he wasn't the same; that the Chemo was robbing him of his energy.
But his wanting to bless our family and his roommates was a driving force and all I do is remind him to slow down or nap.
And most of the time he would.
I already knew Mark's parnets and had met his three sisters. In fact, one just came out and asked him when was he going to marry me. It was the brothers I hand't met.
The dinner has gone from just our parents to Mark's recent married sister and her two girls, his older sister, his older brother and his wife. Along with the two roommates.

And with devoted two Muslims in the mix, it made for an interesting night.
Out of respect of the family, I put up a small manger scence, one I choice during the Feast of Booths.
Well, Islam doesn't allow for figures of humans.
So we strike a compromise. Since we honoured them during their Holiday, (The Feast Of Eide, to break the fast) they would do the same for our families. We would covered the figures until the night of the dinner and then uncover them when the family was here.
So, Laini being the planner she is, pulled out her trusty pad and pen and we set out to plan the meal and who would do what. This way the work was divivded.
The day of the dinner did not go well. One of the parties did not pull their end of the dinner and things took longer than they should. This meant, I had to make Mark lay down and even with the meal, he still looked tired.
I went into Mark's bathroom to change and realize for the first time that this was the meeting of our two families. It all hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was Ere Shabbath, Christmas Eve and Mark niece's birthday.
And I was a nervious wreak.

Interesting Times

Seeing Bali off back to Nigeria. Bali, Mark, me, Hassim and Muhammad.

Ah! wonderful thing about Chemo; it is finally kicking in.
One of the interesting things that happen during this time was when Mark found his new apartment, he soon had two new roommates.
Two observe Muslims.
Oh! to be the fly on the wall during this time.
At this time didn't know what was wrong with him and working through some very angry emotions. A strong, mature Torah observe Jew with two Muslim; one from Nigeria and the other Egypt, just as firm in their faith. This was going to be interesting. And I wanted a ring side seat. Often times, I could be found sitting in a corner with a big tub of popcorn and a cold Coke.
Yes, there were 'intense momnets.' but for the most part the three men did get along. Mark said his his secret weaspon; me. Hassim and I were the same colour and I had several friends from Nigeria. Because I have spend much time in Muslim countries, I was able to help Mark avoid mine fields. As Sepherdic Jews, our culture is very much like theirs, so there was some commen ground.
They also watched our rlationship very carefully. I watched my dress, knowing their moral stance. And because they could see the respect for thier culture and feelings, I was always treated with the upmost respect. In fact, I became known as 'the lady of the house.' Not that anyone worried that Mark would treat me with anything but respect, But Bali and Hassim watced our relationship like a hawk. To these two men, I was a'holy woman' because of the way I carried myself. They knew me to be moral and upright and it went a long way to when Mark shared his faith, his Muslim friends would listen, for they could see that it was real.
Bali was only with us nine months, then had to return home to his wife and family. Otherwise he would have stayed for the wedding. But our Muslim and Hindu friends, those who would never come to another House of Worship, came out of respect for Mark and me.
We have since lost contact with our friends. Hassim has since married and has a little girl. Please keep our friends in prayers.
These men helped make us better disciples of Yeshua.

You Must Laugh

You Must Laugh
As a former LPN Hospsic nurse, I knew the importance of laugher. Thr Torah tells us that laugh "does the heart good like a medication."
I told Mark once I brought a Cancer patient of my a stuffed crab and told her to call it Cancer. It changed her outlook. You must not allow the disease to define or control you. You must learn to say "I have Cancer; it doesn't have me!"
And it is true. All my patients had I Love Lucy as part of their treatment program. And if they didn't know about Lucy before they met me, they soon came to love her too.
Early in Mark's treatment, Mark found that he was hungry all of the time. He thought Chemo takes away the need to eat. But I told him sometimes, Chemo makes you hunger.
And don't be afraid to eat! It will help the drugs to work and help your body fight the cancer.
"So," I told him, "if you find youself at Burger King @ 2 am ordering everything on the menu and if the clerk ask you, 'what! are you expecting?' Say yes! a five pound, two ounce crab."
Mark looked at me like I was from Mark. He started laughing, thinking I had said something else. Mark thought he heard me say "crab" with a 'p' and not a 'b'.
We had a good laugh over his mishearing what I said.
This was the beginning of Mark's healing. Not only of his body, but of his heart.

A Renew Respect: The Turning Point

I had a renewed respect for Mark.
He never blamed G-d or his time in Iraq for his disease.

It was just another battle to fight and he would do so.
In G-d's strenght.

Yes. We spoke a lot during this time. But he also had faith in the Love and healing power of G-d, in his doctors and in the fact that I would be there for him.
We had a little fuss in the Hosptial parking lot one day. I told him: "You are my best friend and what kind of friend would I be if I allowed you to deal with this alone!" He was quite touched and hugged me and I could feel the tenison leave his body.

He finally realize he wasn't going to be alone.
Then came the turning point.
We were having a Thankgiving supper for the older members, singles and others who might not have somewhere to go for Thankgiving. Mark wasn't sure what his plans would be and insisted I go to Temple. I invitved my mum, but the place she was living at the time would have a Dinner, so she didn't come.
At the last minute, Mark learned his family was indeed having Thanksgiving Dinner, but when he called to invite me, it was too late; I had already left.
Turns out, there was no dinner at my mum's home. The home felt it would cost too much.

Having heard this, I promise my mum I would give her a "real Christmas Dinner" to makeup for what happen.
Now, as a Messinic Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas, but this would be a gift for my mum.
The next evening was Shabbath. And it was one of those services where one's mail is read. Meaning: the message was aimed at you.
I remember Rabbi saying: "Often we ask G-d for something, like G-d send me a wife. He sends us a wife and this isn't the person you had in mind." And for a log time, that is how I felt.
There were several times that went wrong in the Social Room and my mood was growing worse and worse. Everyone was pulling at me for something and not giving in return.
And then the final straw, Mark....
I remember someone speaking to Mark and she said something about me as his wife. No, he said, we are just friends.
Those words broke my heart. After all of this time, I was still just a friend.
Having no idea I heard what was said, I came up to him and told him I was leaving.

Right now!
And I ran out the building in tears.
He caught up with me, talked me into his jeep and I told him I had had enough. I felt used by everyone. And I had had it! I took off my Star of David and gave it to him. I told him I wasn't coming back to Temple; I just wanted to be left alone! I didn't even want to see him again.
In short; I had a meltdown.
But Mark would not leave me alone "I feel like I am to blame for all of this!"
I couldn't answer him; all I could down was cry.
He took me home. And stayed with me until I calmed down. Then, told me out of his concern for me, he wasn't leaving me, but would sleep on my sofa.
Ok. So I went downstairs, while Marl kept watched downstairs.
But an hour later, I heard, "Laini! I Have to go. I will call you."
Later, he did.
"I could not stay, because I would have come upstairs...."
Later that night, he told me he loved me and one day, he would marry me.
It was just the words I had been wanting and waiting to hear.

The Next; Chemo

Things moved quickly.
The following week, Mark had his port put in.

The Port is the site where the Chemo meds would be injected into his body, thus saving his veins.
But that was a hard day for Mark. That morning he recieved the Port, then a few hours after recovering from having the Port placed (it is an operation) he recieved his first treatment of Chemo.
He looked so weak and it was hard to see the man I so leaned on, always so strong and there for me, the man who was always taking care of me, was suddenly, weak and sick.

How my heart broke. All I could do was hold his hand and wipe his forehead. How I wanted to take this disease away from him and into myself.
Funny, when the nurse removed the tape from his chest, it pulled his chest hair. Mark kept telling me; "Laini, he pulled my chest hair." Finally, I offered to beat the nurse up.
"O, would you?" was his answer.
He was so weak, we had to get a wheelchair for him to wheel Mark to the car. I was invited to his parnets home for supper. I thought Mark would fall asleep in his food.
But the next day!

In the afternoon I got a call from Mark. He was bright eye ans brushy tail, wanting to go to Ere Shabbath service.
When he arrived later at my home, I am trying to figure out who this person was. What did they mix in his Chemo. The man was higher than a kite. As we rode to Temple, I felt like I was riding with Speed Racer and was hanging on for dear life.
As I entered the temple, several asked how was Mark, knowing this was his first day. I said, "ask him!" The man did not look like he had just recieved Chemo, but was boucing off the walls. I wouldn't even allow him to drink a Coke!
We went for a walk after the service to help walk off his enegery. The next day, he had just as much engery, but he said he did sleep well.
This is going to be interesting. But then, my relationship with Mark has has been anything but dull.

My Confession
I have confession to make;
I was angry.
I was angry because Mark had survived a war, only to come home and enter into the fight of his life; Cancer.
Mark never asked why. I did.
I will never say G-d gave Mark Cancer, but He allowed it. For His purposes. But it force me to be honest about my feelings for Mark. I had to be honest with me. Yes, I loved him and I told G-d that which He already knew. And I prayed for Mark. Whether He chose a mircale or work through the doctors, nurses and meds, then do so. But I prayed for my bestfriend, for the man I loved. And there was no doublt, though I didn't say the words that I loved him.
Both Iraq and Cancer brought us closer together.
But was I just his bestfriend and now nurse? Or did this finally force Mark to face his love for me?
For Mark, he never asked why, but it did bother him that he would come home from Iraq sick.
He was more frighten of what the future held. He said he also realize that he loved me.
And he didn't wish to leave me.

Monday, 13 October 2008

He Took It Better Than I Thought

As I look back on things, I do remember how many people thought Mark and I were already married.
Or would soon to be.
When G-d brings a couple together, it shows.

I had gone to see Mark the next day for a bit.

Paul and Sarah, showed up also and we had a wonderful time teasing Mark about his hosptial attire.
It turns out that Mark, Paul and Sarah had something up their collected sleeves. I was told I would be "shanghi" the following Friday and I would like it!
Since I was outnumbered, I figured it was best not to fight.
That Thrusday, Mark, his dad and I went to the hosptial for the report. Since I already knew, I had planned to just hang out in the waiting room. But Mark asked me to come into the office with them.
Praise G-d! Mark was downgraded to stage 2. This was awesome news, since this meant his changes of recovery was very good.

Dr. Hopkin's now Mark's doctor, told Mark while Chemo would be hard to go through, once he made it through, the chances of the Cancer returning was 10%. While it was a quick growing cancer, it was caught just in time. Dr. Hopkin told Mark: "this lady saved your life!"
Later, I told Mark I already knew the outcome, but felt it was the doctor's place to tell him. Mark took it well; just like a man, he shrugged his shoulders and ok.
I could have kicked him! Here I was worrying how he would take my knowing before him, thinking he would be angery with me and his only reponsd was OK????

Later he confessed would have rather heard it from the doctor than from me, but it didn't bother him in the least that I knew before he did. It made dealing with the news easier.
After Dr.Hopkins gave him the news, my buddy Mark disappeared and popped out Captian Reel; "OK. What is the next course of action?"
Later, after having lunch with his parents (I still remember the look on his mum's face when he hugged her and said, "it's cancer, mum") Mark and I went out for coffee. This is when he asked me to help take care of him during his Cancer treatment.
I just smiled and told him; "as your friend, I already plan to do so."
I couldn't share what was truly in my heart; that I loved him and I wanted whatever time G-d would give us. I wasn't going anywhere.
Mark told me a year later, I didn't need to say a word; it was written all over my face.

And that he felt the same way.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Testing of Our Faith

I got to see Mark a few minutes that evening.
It was so funny.

Doctor Overman, (the doctor on Mark's case) told me that while the surgery was going on, Mark started to get the hiccups! And when I saw him, Mark still had them.
One of the blessings in all of this was we learned that the Team that would be working on Mark were the top surgeons in the hosptial, top in their field. So Mark was in the hands of the best.
The doctors came in while I was there with his parnets. Still, nothing was said about their findings. Since I don't drive, Mark asked his dad to bring me to see him the next day.
So, the next day, I spend the afternoon with Mark.

And he still had the hiccups. No one knew what was causing them. I did have to ask the nurse for another gown; the one they gave Mark was rather short and he was flashing me!
And we didn't have that kind of an relationship....
Personally, I think the nurse who gave him that gown thought he had a cute tush and she wanted to see it from time to time.
Later, during supper, which we shared together, one of the surgeons came in to speak to Mark. I offered to leave the room, but was asked to stay.
It became clear, no one had told Mark or his family their findings.
It had been taken for granted that I was Mark's wife, until I told people we weren't. It was clear how close we were (are) and that is why I was told so much. And frankly I found it both an honour and a burden.
I called Rabbi when I got home and told him what was going on. What bothered me the most was:

I knew Mark had cancer. Mark did not.
And I would have to carry that knowlege for another six days.
Rabbi said it was clear that the doctors felt I could handle this better than Mark right now. And that since Dr. Overman felt I was the stronger one, it would be my strenght he would lean on.
After speaaking to Rabbi and knowing what he said was true, I prayed, needing G-d's strenght and wisdom as to how to handle this situration. I needed His Grace and Wisdom.
Mark and I had always been able to talk about any and everything. He has always trusted me.
I could only hope he continue to feel that way when he learns I knew he had cancer before he did.

About Starbucks

If you have read from the beginning of this story, you would know that both Mark and I are coffee lovers.
We use to slip away between Sunday School class and service to 7-11 for coffee. (Sorry Pastor Nate).
One day, I knew our relationship was getting serious when Mark started taking me to Starbucks. The one we use to go to has since been closed, moving to a larger building. Funny, that building is now a five minute walk from our apartment.
I remember when Mark went to Iraq the first time. I use to get a pound of coffee from Starbucks to send him and sometimes, it was just given to me outright in thanks for his service. Even now, I from time to time get a pound of coffee to send him and even recieve my latte on the house.
I know many people knock Starbucks, the price mostly, but it has many sweet memories for me. How often Mark and I would just sit and talk over coffee without feeling rushed or hurried. Starbucks is just a wonderful place to meet folk, read, study or just comfort a friend.
Even now, when Mark calls from Iraq, he is drinking a cup of the Starbucks coffee I had send him. And I am enjoying a cup along with him.
Think I will make some right now...

It was quite a week.
Mark realizing that there was something indeed wrong and the worse part; it was cancer.
As I think back, Mark was in the beginning stages of the cancer when he came home for R&R in April.

His being over tired was more than just coming home from Iraq. He first notice the lump on his neck in June and reported it.
Same report was given when he came home, but no one thought it serious.
The fight just to get him back on activty duty so he could get paid while being treated is a story in itself and since it isn't a pretty one, I shall not share it. Let's just say I did a lot of praying.
I remember talking to Mark one morning. At the time the doctor thought he was stage 3 or 4. Since I use to take care of Cancer patients, he had lots of questions. I was sick; for I knew with stage 3 or 4 he would have a major fight on his hands. He asked if it was stage 5.

I didn't want to anwer.
Stage 5 is when I show up at the door; as the hospic nurse. I assured him I didn't think he was that far for he would be a lot sicker.
But inside, my heart was breaking.
That Friday, Mark had his surgery. Traffic was awful, but I made it to the hosptial just before he went down. I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

He needed to know.
Mark told me he loved me too.
Hours later, I ran into the doctor we had seem earlier in the week. The operation was over and Mark was in recovery, The tissue send down and rushed tested. It was indeed non-hopkin lymoha and thankfully it did not spread for the liver was clean. So the stage will be downstaged.
When I went uspstairs, I learned that two of the doctors had spoken to Mark's parnets. But none of the doctors had not told them any of what they told me. They were not told their son had cancer.

And it wasn't my place to tell them.

You Must Have Starbucks

After much time on the phone, the doctor's nurse with the clinic and then the hosptial and Laini on the bathroom floor praying (more about that later) and the hosptial finally realizing that this is a serious matter, we were on our way to the clinic to pick the first reports.
Mark was angry.
He knew he was sick; finally faced the fact he was sick and now he felt no one cared. He tried to explain about Military red Tape. But I explain that we serve a G-d that can cut through Red tape; mililitary or otherwise.
But, first we need Starbucks.
Mark looked at me like I had lost my mind.
"No! you need to calm down and get Starbucks. That will give the clinic enough time to gather your records and for you to calm down."
So, on our way to the clinic, we stopped at Starbucks. There was a new drink, Pumkin Spice Latte and I recommended it. But Mark wanted something cold, so he ordered a Camel Coffee on ice. Finally, he began to calm down.
On our way to the clinic, Mark's cell phone went off (I came to love cell phones) it was the Navel Hosptial. The doctor was given Mark's report and told to come straight to the Hosptial. Mark was then asked if he had anything to eat or drink.
Just ice coffee...
Well, he had to have it to me because he was facing a bunch of test.
So we spend the day at Portsmith Naval Hosptial and it was clear to the doctor that was seeing Mark that this was indeed Non-Hopkin's Lympha. He was facing surgery that Friday morning (four days time) for a biopsy of his neck and liver, since there was a spot found there too. We stopped at his parnets to let them know what was happening.
Up until this point, even Mark was thinking I was worrying over something that would prove to be minor.
I kept hoping, praying I was wrong, knowing in my heart I wasn't.
G-d, I wish I had been.
Now, about the bathroom.
Years ago, I remember my mum worked the Governor's office up North. And of course full of drama.

As the only believer in the office, she would often go to the bathroom to pray. She called it the holiest place to pray.
Why? Because, from the bathroom, the only place you have to go is UP.

And So It Begins

I remember when Mark got the letter from the clinic with the name of the doctor he was being referred to. He looked at me and asked;"Oncology. Isn't that cancer?"
All I could do was nod my head. For the second time I cried out to G-d; "Both of them?"
First Mark and my son being send to war at the same time.
Now, Mark and my mum going to the same Cancer Center.
This was going to be a long night.

As a farmer Hospices LPN, I knew how serious things were. Mark asked many questions, questions I hated answering.
For he wanted to know how bad bad could get.
And I didn't want to go there.
Now you have to understand, I am not a pushy person. But having been an Hospics LPN for many years and my bestfriend could well have cancer, I got pushy. For I now realize I loved this man. And whatever time G-d would give us, I wanted.
So I went to every test, every doctor's appointment. Frankly, no one should ever have to go to the doctor's alone. It is always best to have another person for moral support and to make sure you truly understand what was happening.
The night before his visit we had gotten together for supper, he was filling out an questionaire send to him that he had to bring for his appointment.
Are You Moody? Mark's answer; once in a while...
Once in a While! I took that questionaire and answered it myself!
The next day, we arrived at the doctor's, only to be told he could not be seem by the doctor, but at the Navel Hosptial. There haven't been room before and now was. But the Navel hosptial didn't have all of Mark's recent medical changes and the doctor had to get on the phone and make it clear: "This man is walking death. If you don't take him the next few days, I will. He doesn't have time to wait."
I am in no way putting down the Navel Hosptial. But there is there is this thing called Red Tape. And the doctors at the Hosptial-allthey knew was Mark's neck was swollen and what's the big deal. The doctor from the clinic did not imform the Hosptial that Mark's condition was worse than it was.
As Mark began more angry (he felt he was being jerked about) I went into the bathroom and started praying, knowing G-d had to move on Mark's behalf. I would not, could not believe that G-d would keep Mark safe in Iraq, only for me to lose him to a Cancer cell!

Sometimes We Forget

Sometimes, we women forget that men have feelings too.
That they do get hurt, rejection can crush their soul. We we expect them to just 'man up!'
During this time I was dealing with the fact that not only were there black massives in my best buddies lungs, but my mum was found that she had a huge tumor in her stomach and we needed to find out what was happening to her.
Getting over my own bruised feelings, I remembered that this man has just come home from war. His parnets opinions mattered greatly and the added factor is that his family wasn't Messinaic. Like my, his family rejected their jewish roots two generations ago and I as a Messinaic Jew was encourging him in his search of his Jewish roots.

He had learned about his faith from an uncle and decided this was the path he wished to walk. Unlike my family, there were memebers of his family struggled with this change.
My family understood I wasn't rejecting Yeshua (Jesus), but embracing my Jewish roots. And the accepting of the Jewish Messiah is the most Jewish thing one can do.
So here was a woman who shared not only most of his interest, but even in his faith. To be with me, he had to go against everthing he had ever grown up with.

Plus, there had been another woman he once loved that crushed his heart and he had a problem with trust.
This was a ten foot wall only G-d could knock door.
And now, he was dealing with being ill.
Things moved quickly. He got the CT Scan, it was read then was gvien the name of a doctor.
When I saw the name of the doctor he was being send to, my heart dropped to my feet, driving me to my knees in prayer.
It was the same Cancer Center my mum was going to.

High Holy Day and Restoration

Once Mark realize was he who gave everyone the idea there was more to our relationship than friendship and he had to become clear in his mind what he wanted, from me, from life, things between us became to calmed down.
It took several hours, but that evening we did go to supper and continue to talk. It was clear Mark was doing a lot of soul searching and my giving him the deep chill went a long way in doing so.
Within a week's time we started hanging out together. I helped him setup his new apartment, met his new roommates and went to Temple together.

We both knew that this relationship was important to us, but I had been deeply hurt by his actions.
Mark, realizing how much he had hurt me, worked hard to repair our relationship. He began more honest with his feelings, even the fears that was holding him at bay. It was this move that made me realize he really was sorry and wanted to begin again.
It was the Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. The time of new beginnings, to forgive and be forgiven.

The night before, Ere Rosh Hashananh, Mark misunderstood something I said and we exchanged heated words. We didn't even get to enjoy the Apples and Honey for a Sweet New Year.
When we got to his apartment, I packed up my share of the grociers, ready to tell Mark to drop dead and catch a cab home, when Mark, listening to a message went white.
I was still yelling when he stated; "The the clinic called. My lungs are full of black massives and they have ordered a CT for three days time."
Suddenly, all my anger was gone I was holding my bestfriend.
A few minutes later, I called a friend, a former R.N and told her all the inforation I had on hand. I had already knew in my heart what this was.
My girlfriend comfirm my worst fears; get Mark to a doctor quick; this could be Non-Hopkin Lympha.

That evening, I was laying in my bed praying, knowing Mark was doing the same in his apartment.
The words we had exchanged seen so foolish in this new light. As I prayed, I was once again reminded of the stress this man had been under; war does that. He came home changed; war does that to a person. It messes with one's head, one's soul and emotions. And what kind of friend was I being? My bestfriend needed me more than ever and I'd ready to kick him to the curb?
And now because of this war, my best friend is very ill.
As much as G-d has forgivn me, I can't forgive him?
How can I call myself a believer and withhold forgivness to anyone?
Suddnely, the High Holy Days took on new meaning.
I asked G-d to forgive my allowing my heart to become hard and that I was indeed willing to forgive my best friend.
The man I truly loved.

And during the morning services for Rosh Hashanah, I told Mark I forgave him.
I saw the tears well in his eyes as he hugged me.
During a break in the service, he took me to his jeep and handed me back the duffle bag I had returned to him two weeks ago, including his pictures and Mr.Bunnie.

It seems Mr.Bunnie was hoping Miss Laini would "Love us again." Mark said he held onto the duffle bag, hoping I would change my mind.
As my mum pointed out, my pulling away would make Mark realize what ans who he wanted. The next following days, were the Ten days (days of Awe) before Yom Kippur, we to seek forgivness, forgive, pay debts and right wrongs.
This was also a very interesting time for I finally got Mark to see a doctor. I had notice one side of his neck was swollen and he was sweating all the time. He was moody and flew off the handle at the drop of an hat. Most put it on his adjusting to being back in the States, tired, or even an infestion. I said no, there was something wrong.
And now with the clinic's report, we would learn what was truly wrong.

The Confrontation

After 18 months, Mark was coming home.
And he was being confronted by all he knew about his relationship with me.
All anyone ever heard Mark talk about other than the L-rd, the Torah, was me. For a while it was accepted we were friend.
But now friends and family wanted to to know what was the real state of our relationship. What is really happening? Were we truly just friends or more?
Even Rabbi asked Mark point blank.
One summer morning, just before Mark's trip to Europe, he called and said he wanted to spend the day with me. Service @ Beth Messiah and then lunch.
The sermon was about being stubborn. There was a statement about when your in the military, sometimes you forget to 'take off the umiform'. Well, Mark got mad over the statement and things got worsr when I agreed with the statement.\
I had to gently point out, there are those times, I see my friend Mark and then there are others, it is Captain Reel.
But there was something wrong! Mark wa so short tempered and easy to offend and that wans't like him. I put it on his return from Iraq, major stress and his month's vacation would do him a world of good.
It didn't.
One month later, I would learn Mark was back in town; through a friend. He didn't even bother to call me.
He had enrolled back in school and was looking for an apartment. And clearly cutting ties with me.
Well, I wanted answers!
I spend 18 months, praying, writing letters, making cookies, reciveing phone calls@ 2 am and making international calls, gathering support and to be kicked to the curb without even a thank you?
Oh heck No!
I even found an apartment for him, only to learn he found one and said nothing. When he realize I was upset we got into a fight and he hung up on me.
Big mistake.
I called back and chewed him out.
Later, I learned he was in class and that wasn't the time to hash this thing out
The next day, he picked me up at a friend's and in his jeep we had a huge blowup. Clearly, whatever had been there was now over.
He asked to see "mama J" (his name for my mum.)
I quickly corrected him: she was my and Mrs j to you! In fact, I am not Laini, but Elayne. This took him aback. Since there was no relationship, new lines had to be drawn. His shock was how quickly I drew them.
After our visit, he took me home and I packed up everything he ever gave me in his duffy bag and handed it back to him.
Mark said he realize that I wasn't just angry, but kicked him to the curb when I shoved Mr.Bunnie into his bag along with his pictures an tee-shirts he had given me. I told him I wanted nothing of and from him. I reminded him of something his dad had once said: "One day your going to say something to someone that will do so much damage, I'm sorry won't fit it."
This was that day.
Mark began to calmed down and realized that I was not only angry, but hurt. And he had done it. Suddenly a light had turned on; the person he needed and cared about, he managed to push away. And it wasn't what he wanted. And "I'm sorry wasn't going to fix it."
I saw the little boy, frighten by what he had done and wondering what he could do to repair the damage.
Something was wrong; this wasn't the person I knew before he went to Iraq. Yes, I was angry and I needed to let him know how I felt by his actions. But there was something else besides coming home from Iraq an d adjusting to life in the states.
It was fear.
He was afraid to love me and yet, to let me go.
I didn't know it at the time, but Mark was also sick.

That Summer

The next morning I recieved a call.
It was from Mark.
He has just arrived in Baghad and was in shock. He finally saw the reports we here in the States had been hearing the month he was home.
When Mark came home, he told us things weren't as bad as many places had reported.
But during the time of Mark's R&R, things in Bagdad fell apart. That things went from bad to worse since mid-March.
Clearly he was shaken and fully dimhearted by what he was witnessing.
And I was both honoured and humbled that he turned to me for support.
This is also when he asked me to make a wedding sample for his okder brother. Since this is my busniess, of course he paid me. But it gave me a chance to meet more of his family.
We talked alot the next several weeks. I would later learn that he was 'told' to call me.
It seems G-d provided a buddy, his best buddy Sam,
They helped to keep each other sane.
I remember speaking to Sam several over ther phone.
Once, Sam told me that after Mark spoke to me on the phone, he would be calmer and easiler to deal with. In fact, I rmember once and a while Sam himself would call me and hand Mark the phone :) It was a time of intense prayer, for I knew he was having a hard time.
Besides Sam, there were few believers for Mark to have fellowship with. And then Sam's tour was over, which added to Mark's depression. Added with the ongoing struggle of growing feelings for me.
And then came that day.
My birthday, he said he wanted to tell me he loved me, but felt the next words would be "would you marry me?"
He wasn't ready to go there. I said: "and what makes you think I would say yes?"
It was the shock he needed. I told him I love him too, but only wanted to be with the man G-d would have for me and knew he loved me. Fact is, just before he rang off with me, he said; "I know this, your in my heart." I told him, he was in my.
That is telling someone you love them.
I knew he loved me, I knew he was the one. G-d would have to be the One help Mark battle his of what others would think and heal his broken heart.
Yet, he would keep writing and calling me.
And then came the call: "Laini, I'm coming home!" His tour was coming to a close sooner than any of us expected. But, the Green Zone was being turned over to the Iraqis, so his job was done.
He had thought however, of staying in Iraq, joining a contruction company that was helping to build homes for Iraqis.
He asked me what I thought.
I swallowed. I wanted him to come home.
So, I told him while I thought this was a noble idea (that is true) I felt that he really needed to come home; that his parnets were really having a hard time with his being gone and he needed to come home at least fror a while.
After I hung up, the L-rd told me to call back and tell Mark I also missed him and needed him to come home.
Of course I turned around to see if there was anyone esle in the room. Funny, really when you consider I live alone.
Why do things happen when one is alone?
So, I called Mark back....
Mark said "Oh?"
After a few minutes of pause, Mark said, " I guess when this deployment is over, I'm coming home. "
He told me later, my saying I needed him home was what made the difference.
He really wanted to know if I needed him.
The sneak.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Back to Iraq

When Mark and I were first becoming friends, there was one evening I found him asleep on my sofa. And I had to softy wake him up. He felt so bad, but I told him I was flatter; it met that he felt comfortable. He told me that I was a "strange, rare lady." Then he looked me straight in the eye and said "I feel like I am home here."
And that is why he spend so much time with me; he felt safe, he flet at home.
That night at Mark's Happy Birthday-Welcome Home-Come Back Safe party, I was feeling sad, for I would have to say goodbye for another six months. And it was hard.
I remembe Mark speaking to someone and pointing to me saying: "Laini is mad at me because I have to go back."

I came over and said, "Yes, I am sorry to sse you go and will miss you every much. But I also know you have a job to do and I am very proud of your service to this country. And I will be here waiting for you when you get back."
He was pleased with that answer.
After the evening was over, he drove me home and said, "Well, I'll see you later." Everyone had recieved hugs. I get "I"ll see you later."
I reminded him that he had an order of brownies he had to take back for the buddie covering for him. So, he said he would come by early before he flew out and pick them up.
I called my mum in tears, stating everyone got hugs and kisses, I get 'see you later!'My mum is so wise.
"Laini, do you know that he did that because it is so hard for him to say goodbye to you. That you are the hardest one for him to leave?"
I felt better.
As said, a buddie covered for Mark and he said his lady made the best brownies (I didn't know at the time he was calling me his lady) and she made Mark promise to have me make brownies for her. Which I did. So they were safe in the freezer until Mark's return.
He stopped by and came for the brownies and said he was glad he got to see me one more time before he left. I prayed for him and walked him to the door, knowing his father was waiting for him. He gave me one more hug and then bend down. He started to kiss me....then ran out the door, waving and yelling he would see me soon.
There was no longer any doubt in my mind.
Mark loved me.

Now, About the Camel

My camel from Iraq

I wasn't the only one writing Mark at this time. Years ago, his younger sister had given him as stuffed animal, Mr.Bunnie. One day, when I was helping Mark pack up his apartment for his deployment, I noticed Mr.Bunnie and that his head was almost coming off. So I offered to repair him. Mark jumped at the suggestion.
A few days later, I called Mark and told him Mr.Bunnie was better. He hurried to my home. It was so cute....watching this 6ft 4in gentle gaint hugging his Bunnie.
Well, I couldn't picture Mr. Bunnie alone (along with the Tazmaine Devil) being locked up in that cold apartment for a year, so they came home with me.
So, Mr.bunnie, Taz and I would write Mark weekly. And they backed me up with the Camel.
Except, we wanted a live Camel.
But Mark said his CO would have a problem with that.
But it was a wonderful two weeks.
First, I was very shocked--but pleased--there were only two days that I did not see Mark. He wanted to be with me. One or two days, yes. But I thought he would wish to hang out with other friends and family, even meet with Rabbi.
But, it was me he wished to be with.
As always, we had a great time, just hanging out, going to visit my mum, going to services, etc.
But there was something else. Mark didn't look good. I thought it was just he was tired from war and he needed some good food and rest.
One evening, after spending an afternoon out, he had supper at my apartment. Mark would wash the dishes. But this time, he asked if he could just lay down on my sofa, he was really tired.
No problem. He was here to rest, not to work. Soon, I could hear him sleep on my sofa.
There he laid, curled upon the sofa, holding Mr.Bunnie. And yes, I took a picture. But I also notice how much he was sweating. It was a warm Spring, but not that warm.
But, I had accidently dropped a pan and he did not wake up! The phone rang twice, he did not wake up!
But when there was a knock on my front door, Mark was upon his feet, standing gurad at the door. He wasn't home, but in Iraq. I had to assure him that I knew who was at the door and everything was fine. He did not move the whole time I was at the door with the teen-age boy who came to return a pan his grandmother had borrowed.
It wasn't until I said he looked like: "Halt! or I will shoot you with my Bunnie." that we both laughed.
But flash backs are real, and I realize that to expect him to leave a warzone and then step back into his life like nothing has changed is wrong. I also realize that with me, he felt safe.
A few nights later, we were invited to Shabbath supper. Plus since the day before was his birthday, they had a birthday cake for dessert. We had fun that evening and the family prayed for Mark before he left. Little Elanna, my name sake, prayed "Father bring Mr. Mark home sooner!" The prayers of a child.
Little Elanna plays a role in this story as well.
The next day, we were planning to have supper with our friends Paul and Sarah. But unbeknowest to Mark, this was also a surprise birthday party for Mark as well. It was also bitter-sweet; for this would be Mark's last evening home before he returns to Iraq.
I had asked Mark what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday. He said a triple layed German Chocolate cake. My eyes widen.
"Do you know what your asking for?"
"Yes! That's what I want."
OK. I have never denied Mark anything and if he wanted a triple layed German Chocolate Cake, that is what I will make...
Mark wanted to tell this story and it is in an earlier entry....

The Birthday Cake

On this morning, Mark was given the honour of carrying the Torah before it was read. A high honour, given in thanks that Mark returned home safe and sound.

The Birthday Cake
I know that my Beloved has been speaking to you all of memorable moments in our courtship, so I will tell you about The Birthday Cake. You see, my Beloved is a wonderful cook, and she loves to make things for me. In fact, she will tell everyone that she won my heart through my stomach, specifically LASAGNA! Well back to my story:
I was home on leave from my first deployment, and Laini wanted to know what I wanted for a birthday cake. Since I am a fan of German Chocolate cake with the traditional coconut frosting, I told her I wanted a triple layer German Chocolate cake with the coconut frosting. She looked at me increadulously and asked if I knew what I was asking for. I said, "Yep, that is what I want...a triple layer German Chocolate cake."
Well my Beloved said, "Okay, I never deny my Beloved anything he desires." And she didn't. When I came over the next day, she showed me my birthday cake. It was three layers like I asked. I looked at it with shock and horror. Here was this cake that was almost a foot tall. The third layer was breaking apart in the middle, and of course, since each box can make two layers, and she had to buy two boxes to make my cake, there was a separate layer. When she saw the look on my face, she cracked up. the only thing she said was, "I never deny my Beloved anything he wants."
Well, we went to my "suprise" birthday party with this monstrous cake. I'm looking at this thing thinking to myself, "How am I ever going to eat this thing?" To make matters worse, Suzanne also made me a chocolate bunt cake, and several other people also brought me cakes. I WAS SWIMMING IN CAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
To make matters worse, Paul and Sarah, our friends told us they were going to be going away, so we could not put anything in their refrigerater. Hehehe. As the night progressed, I had a piece from "MY BIRTHDAY CAKE," and knowing I could not eat any more, I asked Laini to cover me while I snuck the cake into Paul and Sarah's refrigerater. Yeah, I know they said no, but what are friends for? Besides I was leaving in the morning, and it would be at least a day before they realized what happened. I would be well on my way back to Iraq by then... Hehehe.

Laini's notes: The funny thing is, when Paul and Sarah saw the cake in the fridge the next day, they knew Mark had put in in there. However, it would be several months before they learned that I covered Mark as 'Operation Put Cake in Fridge' was in progress .

As promised, here are some pictures fron Mark's birthday, parties, including the German Chocolate Cake. This is from Mark's first deplpyment, 2004
This set of pictures are from the birthday party our friends the Burts gave for Mark. The pretty little girl is Elana, who shares my hebrew name. She would also later be my flower girl.

The Sabbath he came home, Mark was given the honour of carrying the Torah that morning. We were all so glad he came home safe and well.
And this is the German chocolate cake you read about. The three layer Cake that was so big and heavy that it began to break in the center. This is the night before Mark had to return to Iraq. We didn't know it then, but Mark was in the beginning stages of Cancer.
While Mark home, a fellow soldier covered for him. The deal? Mark had to bring back Brownies. Mark said his girlfriend made the best Brownies and when he came home, he asked if I could fufill this request. This woman was serving in Iraq and I was going to say no?! Mark took this picture to show that she did recieve the Brownies; intact.

Back in the States

From the end of December 03 to Feb 04, I truly thought I had lost my bestfriend. I would later leran that that:
1. two family members had a role in the huge blowup we had (his)
2. Mark did some major soul searching, knew he was wrong and had to not only rebuild the relationship, but my trust.
The turning point came when he realize that he should have talked to me, since it was our relationship. Mark had always been a loner and not use to sharing his life with others outside his family. I won his trust enough to let into his space.

I also realize I also had some trust issuses to work out. I had to be more, not less patience with my bestfriend.
So, between March and April, Mark was on R%R. He did some traveling in Poland and Germany, then came home.
I knew he would be in the States and I looked forward to seeing my friend, reminding myself he was "my friend."
One spring Shabbath morning as I was getting dressed for service, Mark called, letting me know he was coming to pick me up for service. The tone of his voice was upbeat and happy.
At this time, I had moved. The townhouse I was living in was marked for mowning down for an addtion of the main street, so the city moved me to a townhouse several blocks from where I use to live. So I gave Mark my new address.
I look out the door, looking for his jeep. And found it parked at the apartment across from me.
I opened my mouth to call his name....and nothing came out.
I couldn't believe it; I forgot Mark's name!
So I called "Captain Reel!"
Poor thing thought he was back in Iraq.
He spotted me, jumped back into the jeep and turned around, and finding me, came running and wrapping me in his arms, he lifted me off my feet. (and that is no easy task!)
He was as handsome as always, wearing that big beautiful smile, his blue-green eyes huge.
Mark was in love.
With me.
And he had the camel to prove it.

The Camel
Believe it or not, I have a love of Camels. Don't be surprise if you ever read about Mark and I having our own Camel farm. Or is it stable? It isn't just their eyes, but their whole spirit. They know what they do and don't like and have a pretty good way of letting you know hwo they feel about a thing.
And I had told Mark I wanted a Camel and a copy of 10001 Arbaian Nights.
So, as the story goes, just before he left Baghad, Mark told a friend that his lady would a Camel. And since the army frowned upon him bringing home a real one, he had to find the next best thing. So, his buddy told him of a toy store in the Green Zone where they might have what he was looking for. So, off Mark went, looking high and low, until he found the Camel he knew I would like.
So, that morning, after getting the air squeezed out of me and he came in the new townhouse, he handed me my Camel.
This man, in a warzone, went out to find and buy a Camel for me.

Now tell me that isn't love?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Slow and Steady

I had my friend back.
But I also had to guide my heart. It had been hurt enough. And I didn't wish to risk it again.
We started talking more. A friend gave me calling cards that cut the cost of calling Iraq on my part. During this time, Mark's brother was getting maried and Mark asked me to make a wedding sample for him as a gift. This being my business, of course I was paid. Busniess was pretty good as well.
And then came the call that changed everything. Mark would have a month's R&R. We had some friends that would be in Poland for a few weeks. So my job was to find out where they would be staying and let him know. And since I was praying for my friend's trip, it was an easy time to find out their travel plans.
O how I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Mark called our friend Chuck at supper! To learn that the soldier they had been praying for was now in Poland! What a reunion! But no one knew my role behind the meeting...not for several weeks.
Mark did come home the last two weeks of his visit. Like this year, he came home during Passover. He had tried to attend a Seder while in Poland, but it didn't work out.

Then, one Shabbath, I recieved the call; "Laini, I'm coming to pick you up for Shabbath."
Just like old times.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.....

First Post May 2008:
Well, between Mark's coming home for R&R and our great adventure during his visit (you can read all about that in our journal ) it has been a while since I have written in this jounral and now it is time to continue the story.....

Now where did I leave off....oh yeah! I ended my relationship with Mark.
That was one of the toughest two months of my life.
I knew in my heart Mark loved me; I knew in my heart we were met to be.
Or was I wrong? Was it really G-d I felt leading or just wishful thinking? These are the times of testing we all hate, but know are needful in order for us to grow into the mature, believers we wish to be. I had never known G-d to lie to me.
But I also knew there were a few challenges Mark had to face, to deal with. And that was something only he and G-d could work out. And to be honest, there were those who did not wish to see us together.
It was hard not to pick up the phone or write him. And I didn't. But I cried alot.
And then Feburay 14th, I recieved a phone call: "Hey Laini!"
Believe it or not, at first, I didn't even know who it was. it took a moment. "Long time," he said.
Frankly, I never expected to hear from him again.
Shortly after the blow up, there was a cooling off period nefore we began to slowly patch things up.
Mark began to call more and more. He told me he missed me, missed hearing my voice. And he needed to know if I had truly forgiven him. Mark told me of an orphanage he worked with. I asked if they could use some stuffed aninmals and he said yes. So I made some stuff animals for the children, praying other each and send them out.
I remember the call when the box arrived to Iraq with the stuffed animals. Mark said the children loved them. I just wish he had taken a picture of the children with thier new friends.
The more we spoke, the more I knew two things;
1.I had my friend back.
2.This relationship wasn't over.

Willing to Let Go

To say I was shocked was an understatment.
As I stated before, it was around October that I felt a cooling of the relationship. But I didn't know why.
A few months later, during the Winter Holidays, I would learn why.

I was accursed of trying to intrap Mark into marriage. That I saw him as an easy mark, meal ticket. That I was after his military paycheck. After all, being a Captian's wife isn't too bad...
First, that was not the nature of our relationship. We were the best of friends. Mark had expressed deep feelings for me, but he put that aside because of the war, thinking asking me to wait for him was unfair. As Messianic Believers in the One True G-d, we both had taken a moral stance, chosing to lead a g-dly, moral life. Yes, as shocking as it sounds, we both were celibrate.

Did I care for Mark?

Yes, very much so.

Was I sitting home planning a wedding? However, this is what Mark was told and he believed it.

No. Mark was not sure of where he stood and I did not push. In fact, when I felt a cooling upon his part, I realize how my heart was indeed tied to this man. And I took a step back.
I will not say what was said or who said. There is no need. The matter is settled and I have forgiven and moved on.

I will say this; I made it clear to Mark that I was hurt by he would believe the worse about me without at least coming to me about the matter. I made it clear I was angry.
Mark, realized his mistake and not only asked for my forgivness, but also realize that he almost lost that which was dear to him; his friendship with me.
It took time for me to heal. My heart was broken. And I did one of the hardest things I'd ever done.
I let Mark go.
Several months before, Mark had been calling me and left me his number so I could call him from time to time.
I stopped calling. I stopped writing snail mail and e-mail. I even stopped looking for his e-mail. I knew it would take time, but I had to let him go. So that my heart could heal and once again regain the balance needed to be Mark's friend; and just Mark's friend, I let him go.
I did a lot of crying those three months.

People come into our lives for a reason, for a season.....
And then, the second week of Feburany I recieved a phone. At first I couldn't place the voice.
Ir couldn't be...
"Hi Laini! This is Mark...."

A Year In Iraq

Suddenly the evening news took on new meaning for me.

For my son and my best friend were over there, in a land where war was brewing. The war was suddenly personal.

I really never gave such things thought. True, my own adopted father had died when I was a baby. My step-dad, uncles and even male cousins have served in the miliatry. I had even wanted to, but with my eye sight and asthmas, I didn't cut mustard.

And then there was a period of my life (early 20's) when I was a peace-nick.

Until I realize the things that were worth living for were indeed worth fighting and yes, even dying for.

I had haelped Mark clean up and lock up his apartment for the year that he would be gone. He gave me his own computer from West Point.
I finally got the old girl working, and this is how I got introduced to the world of the internet. If you had told me before Januray 2003, that a computer could be used to reach out and touch someone, bring people together and that the folks you meet online do become wonderful friends, I would have not believed you. I now know that this is quite true.
For a awhile Mark was out of contact as the troops were preparing to enter Bagdad and then taking the city over. Sometimes I would recieve two or three e-mails a day. Somethings it would be weeks. I had to remind myself that I was just the best friend. There were no promise between us, though I had told Mark I would be here when he came back.
Mark said while he wanted me to go on with my life, he was thrilled to know that his buddy was there in the States, praying for him, sending CarePackages and writing e-mail.

And waiting for him.
After several months, I was writing folks that supported Mark, letting them know how he was doing, what he needed prayer. There were times I knew he was depressed, but kept writing anyway.
But in November I felt a cooling in the relationship. I didn't know why, but I could feel my buddy pulling away.
Over the holidays I would find out why.
Someone had told Mark a lie about me. And he believed it.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


A woman's heart should be so lost in G-d's that a man must seek God to find her.

I got off easy.
Mark told his family Christmas Day that he was being deployed to Iraq. I am so glad I wasn't there for that conversation.
Within days, he learned that he would indeed be deployed in Januray. So the last few weeks flew by. I don't think there was a day that passed we weren't together.
Mark was so much fun to be with. Easy to talk to about anything. But our growing feelings for each other.
The last night we were together we watched the first half of, of all things, the Ten Commandments. We had come to the scene where Moshe had left Eygpt and was living in the desert. He was now watching sheep and talking to the sheperd girl. While beautifu, she was not the Princess Moshe had loved and left behind. She was comparing herself to the beauitful woman, knowing she could never measure up. But this is the woman Moshe chose to love.
I knew how the sheperd girl felt. I wasn't what the world calls beautiful. And I knew that I could not never measure up to the beautiful women Mark knew. And the one who broke his heart. The sheperd girl's were my own: "love is not an art to me, but life to me."
It was at this part that Mark had to leave for home and finish packing for he would leave for Fort Bragg the next morning.
One of the things Mark had asked me to do was help clean and pack up his apartment. He had an old computer in his room. The one he used at West Point. He said it needed alittle work, but gave it to me. This way we could say in touch by e-mail.
My first computer.
I watched him walk away. He knew, turned around and waved goodbye again. We promised no tears. I waited until I went to bed.
I miss my bestfriend already. After a while, he will get to Iraq, get busy, maybe meet someone else and forget all about me.
People come into our lives for a reason, for a season....
A few days later, I reieved a call.
It was Mark. He still had his cell-phone. And he was calling his bestfriend.